Did you know that we will experience a solar eclipse in 2024? Perhaps you were in the path of totality during the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. It stretched from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast and spanned 14 states. But even if you weren’t in that path, you likely experienced a partial solar eclipse, as it was visible throughout the contiguous United States.
But the 2024 eclipse has already put scientists and potential observers on notice to be in the totality path from Texas to Maine.
Learn more so you can save the date for this natural phenomenon!
What is a solar eclipse?
Solar eclipses don’t happen once in a lifetime, but they’re rare enough that we make a spectacle when one does.
During this natural phenomenon, the moon slips between the sun and the earth, completely obscuring the view of the sun for a few minutes. The sky darkens as in dawn or dusk, and then when the sun shines through again, daylight returns completely.
When was the last total solar eclipse in the United States?
The last total solar eclipse in the United States occurred on August 21, 2017. According to the American Astronomical Society, it was “the first to touch the ‘Lower 48’ since 1979 and the first to span the U.S. from coast to coast since 1918.”
However, that doesn’t mean this was the last total solar eclipse to be seen on Earth. Antarctica will witness a total solar eclipse on December 4, 2021.
How often do total solar eclipses occur?
Primitive cultures often believed that disaster or punishment from the gods would befall them during a solar eclipse. In many of these cultures, the sun and moon were (and are) considered deities. The complete disappearance of the sun from view would therefore have been terrifying.
Fortunately for humans, solar eclipses did not occur often. There is a solar eclipse about every 18 months, but this natural phenomenon is not seen everywhere on Earth.
These native people probably saw only one solar eclipse in their lifetime.
Statistically, a solar eclipse is observed only about once every 375 years in any one place on Earth. Nevertheless, it is possible that there are more solar eclipses in certain areas and fewer in others.
For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, there was a solar eclipse on June 24, 1778, but the next event is not predicted until May 11, 2078. However, some people from Angola experienced a total solar eclipse north of Lobito on June 21, 2001, and another on December 4, 2002.
What are the stages of a total solar eclipse?
To see all the stages of the total solar eclipse in 2024, you must be on the path of totality. You will only see a partial eclipse if you are slightly outside the path.
However, if you are fortunate enough to be in the path of totality, you will see the moon first, as it slides between the sun and the earth. This will cause a partial eclipse of about 70-80 minutes, and the Sun will appear in the form of a crescent.
Then, as the Moon continues to move across the Sun, shadow bands appear. You can see these fast-moving, long, dark bands on the sides of buildings or on the ground.
It is very difficult to photograph these faint shadows, but you can see them because the Earth’s atmosphere distorts the light from the Sun.
Next, the Baily’s Beads appear. These beams of light stream through the valleys along the lunar horizon, and not everyone can see them.
Next, the so-called “diamond ring” appears. A single bright spot remains at the upper edge of the moon’s shadow and resembles a diamond.
When the diamond ring disappears, totality is reached. At this time, you can remove your glasses and look directly at the total solar eclipse. You will see a red ring from the solar corona around the moon.
This period may last only a few minutes, and you should put your glasses back on before totality ends. As the Moon moves past the Sun, the stages from the Diamond Ring to the Baily’s Beads to the Shadow Bands are passed backwards. And then the sun is fully visible again.
When is the solar eclipse in 2024?
The 2024 solar eclipse will occur in North America on April 8. Only observers in Mexico, the United States and Canada will have the opportunity to see this natural phenomenon.
If you want to see it, you should take this Monday off. The next total solar eclipse won’t occur until August 12, 2026, but you won’t see it unless you’re in Spain, Iceland, Greenland or northeastern Portugal.
Don’t forget: Is Alaska closer to Russia or to America? Click on the link to find out!